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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Reflection and Identity: Works by W. Michelle Harris and Michael Roman

Community Folk Art Center exhibition embraces questions of gender, identity, and society

Feb. 17, 2012, by Staff Reports

  Barbie Mirror, Multimedia, 2009, W. Michelle Harris
Barbie Mirror, Multimedia, 2009, W. Michelle Harris
The Community Folk Art Center Spring 2012 exhibition will feature Rochester-based artist W. Michelle Harris and Atlanta-based artist and Syracuse University alumnus Michael Roman. These two, young artists embrace questions of gender, identity, and societal expectations in their work. The opening reception is Saturday, March 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibition runs through April 21, 2012.

While the materials used by each artist sit at opposite ends of the technological spectrum (Harris uses multimedia and Roman uses charcoal), both individuals seek to examine topics of an interrelated and highly personal nature.

Harris, an associate professor in the Department of Interactive Games and Media at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), incorporates toys and games in her art. In her multimedia piece, Barbie Mirror, she uses small, pixel-like images of Barbie dolls to form a larger picture of a woman. She makes introspective art out of children’s games and toys concerning how female identity is presented.

“Michelle is looking at expectations of gender and stereotypes,” CFAC curator Chris Battaglia said. “While Michael is taking a more aesthetic approach. He approaches the female form with an idealized point of view.”

Roman creates pictures with charcoal that have the expressiveness of a portrait. He is drawn to the female form, paying special attention to curves in the hips and showing movement with the hair. His figures look like ribbons in the wind, but these women do not seem easily broken. He also plays with bird images in his nudes as an acknowledgement of the divine, with a light around them similar to that in depictions of the Virgin Mary.

Roman is a former student of CFAC’s executive director Kheli Willetts, Ph.D and she has been eager to have his work in the gallery during CFAC's celebration of its 40th anniversary.  “Roman has found a way to capture the essence of humanity with his subtle use of artist technique,” she said. “In particular there’s a reflection of sensitivity in the way he renders the female form. He captures the subtlety of femininity with a pen.”

Willetts saw Harris’s work when it was entered into a city-wide art show, and she became intrigued by the feminist message concerning depictions of women.
 “I love her creative meditations, deconstructing Barbie in a way that critiques stereotypically informed perceptions of black womanhood and identity.”

In tandem with the exhibit, CFAC will present a Live Figure Drawing Workshop March 10 from 1 p.m. ot 4 p.m. in the gallery, and a film screening of Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour, with a discussion featuring W. Michelle Harris, Thursday, April 5 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Community Folk Art Center, founded in 1972, is a proud unit of the African American Studies Department in SU's College of Arts and Sciences and a beacon of artistry, creativity and cultural expression engaging the Syracuse community, the region and the world. 

Gallery Hours are Tuesday - Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Follow us on Twitter @cfac or call (315) 442-2230.